Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Trübner, Nicholas

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TRÜBNER, NICHOLAS (Nikolaus), (1817–1884), publisher, the eldest of four sons of a Heidelberg goldsmith, was born at Heidelberg on 17 June 1817, and educated at the gymnasium. He early showed an eager taste for study, and his parents, being unable to afford him a university training, placed him in 1831 in the shop of Mohr, the Heidelberg bookseller. Six years' hard work there brought him into contact with many learned men, and successive employment with Vandenhoek and Ruprecht at Göttingen, Hoffmann and Campe at Hamburg, and Wilmann at Frankfurt, completed his experience and widened his acquaintance with German literature and scholars. At Frankfurt William Longman [see under Longman, Thomas] was struck with young Trübner's ability, and offered him the post of foreign corresponding clerk in his own business. It was eagerly accepted, and Nicholas arrived in London in 1843 with 30s. in his pocket. At Longman's he soon learnt the English language and book trade, and prepared himself for the position of a leading publisher.

In 1851 he entered into partnership with Thomas Delf, who had succeeded to Wiley & Putnam's American literary agency, but at first the venture failed. On David Nutt's joining him, however, the business was placed on a sound footing, and the American trade was developed. After publishing in 1855 his model ‘Bibliographical Guide to American Literature’ (four years later expanded to five times its original size), Trübner visited the United States and formed permanent connections with leading American writers and publishers. In 1857 he edited and augmented his friend Hermann Ludewig's manuscript work, ‘The Literature of American Aboriginal Languages.’ But though he maintained his American connections to the last, as his business expanded Trübner was able to indulge his passion for severer literature. His deepest interest was in philology, philosophy, religions, and, most of all, oriental studies. In spite of the claims of business, he had found time in London to study Sanskrit under Goldstücker and Hebrew with Benisch. As an orientalist himself, a competent critic, and an excellent bibliographer, he brought to the furtherance of his favourite subjects not merely enthusiasm, but critical judgment and a shrewd business mind. His success in gathering round him a band of distinguished scholars, and publishing learned works which other publishers would scarcely have risked, soon made his name a household word wherever oriental scholarship is known, and his fame in India, America, and the continent rests chiefly upon the enterprise and judgment he displayed in this line of publications. On 16 March 1865 appeared the first monthly number of ‘Trübner's American and Oriental Record,’ which did invaluable service in keeping scholars all over the world in touch with him and with each other. In 1878 began the issue of ‘Trübner's Oriental Series,’ a collection of works by the leading authorities on all branches of Eastern learning, of which he lived to see nearly fifty volumes published. His ‘British and Foreign Philosophical Library’ fulfilled a similar purpose for another branch of study. His keen interest in linguistic research led to his preparing in 1872 his ‘Catalogue of Dictionaries and Grammars of the principal Languages and Dialects of the World,’ of which an enlarged edition appeared in 1882. He also published numerous useful class catalogues of various languages and branches of study. He was publisher for government state papers and for various learned societies, such as the Royal Asiatic and the Early English Text, and added to these the ordinary business of a general publisher and foreign agent.

His own works include, besides the catalogues and bibliographies already mentioned, translations from the Flemish of Hendrik Conscience's ‘Sketches of Flemish Life,’ 1846, from the German of part of Brunnhofer's ‘Life of Giordano Bruno,’ Scheffel's ‘Die Schweden in Rippoldsau,’ and Eckstein's ‘Eternal Laws of Morality;’ and a memoir of Joseph Octave Delepierre, Belgian consul in London, whose daughter he married. He also collected materials for a history of classical book selling.

As a rare combination of scholar, author, and publisher, Trübner held a unique position and exerted a remarkable influence. His house was the resort of men of learning of all nations and distinguished people of all kinds. Douglas Jerrold, G. H. Lewes, Hepworth Dixon, W. R. Greg, J. Doran, Bret Harte were among his intimates, and referring to his social charms, Louis Blanc said, ‘Trübner est une bouche d'or.’ His scholarly ardour and enthusiasm for learning, and still more his kindliness and sympathy, endeared him to a wide circle, who found in him a staunch, generous, and warm-hearted friend. Many a struggling scholar owed his final success to Trübner's practical help and steady encouragement. His services to learning were recognised by foreign rulers, who bestowed on him the orders of the crown of Prussia, Ernestine Branch of Saxony, Francis Joseph of Austria, St. Olaf of Norway, the Lion of Zähringen, and the White Elephant of Siam. He died at his residence, 29 Upper Hamilton Terrace, Maida Vale, on 30 March 1884, leaving one daughter.

[Personal knowledge; A. H. Sayce in Trübner's Record, No. 197, April 1884; Karl J. Trübner in Centralblatt für Bibliothekswesen, June 1884; Allgemeine Zeitung, 19 April 1884; W. A. E. Axon in Library Chronicle, April 1884; Athenæum, 5 April 1884; Bookseller, April 1884; Annual Report of Royal Asiatic Soc. 1884.]

S. L-P.